I was thinking about you today and how it seems impossibly small to say I know, but I do. I know what it feels like to think that what you thought you wanted to do (and ultimately the person you thought you wanted to become) collapses on you like a Jenga tower without warning.
I know what it feels like to wonder if you even want to stay in the city that you moved to because you wanted more, only to have every day feel like hell.
I know what it feels like to think you should try something totally different, like maybe moving to Africa to dig wells different, but at the same time to be completely unsure what exactly that something is.
And perhaps worst of all, I know how it feels to be asked, what are you going to do now and not have a good answer -- really any answer.
I don't know if I've ever told you this, but after I lost my first job, I didn't even want to look at the question. So instead I got really lost and even drunker. During the day, I'd wander around the city with my laptop, usually landing at this little Ethiopian coffee shop that had John Mayer's greatest hits on repeat and a liberal BYO policy. I'd pass the time by drinking bottles of wine and working diligently on painfully esoteric Facebook messages to my college ex-boyfriend. At some point I'd collect my belongings and stumble to the nearby Boston Market to buy a bag full of cornbread. No chicken, no delicious mashed potatoes; just cornbread. After a month or so of this glamorous routine, I got evicted from my apartment and was forced to move in with my 85-year grandmother. You would think the twin bed and lack of Internet connectivity would have been a wake up call to get my shit together. Unfortunately, it wasn't. Instead I took it as a blinking neon sign to discard 85 percent of my material possessions and move to a remote cottage on an island and begin a "book project." As most would later come to realize, this project was more of thinly veiled excuse to practice my drunk bike riding skills and crash weddings. It took another another eviction, a forced move into my 20-year-old sister's college dorm room, a failed run at law school, and a Craigslist ad, before I finally found the courage to do what I loved again.
And that, my own lack of courage, rather than the regrettable Facebook missives, is what bothers me most about my entire messy episode and what I thought I should tell you. I had ascribed so much self worth to having my job that when I lost it, well, I completely lost it. It was as if my entire sense of self was ripped away from me with one pink slip and the only thing that I could hear was the thumping drum beat of failure and self doubt: Was I a writer? What should I do? Why did I live here? Was it really imperative that I shower? Did I actually just eat an entire bag full of cornbread?
So as I see you go through this, I wanted you to know that I understand how you feel and more, I admire you. I admire that you seem to be asking the questions that it took me um, years, to even glance at. I know how much courage it takes to go down to the unemployment office and admit to that person in the window that it didn't quite work out as planned but you're figuring it out. I admire that I haven't caught you mixing peach flavored champagne into a Slurpie to quench your thirst during a matinee movie and that you seem to be showering regularly.
For better or for worse, life always seems to present us with opportunities when we get to ask: Is this what I actually want? Seriously, is it? It's not a question that is limited to jobs, it can be relationships, homes,nail polish colors. The best part is that it's up to you how you want to play it. You can ignore the question or look it in the face. I did a little bit of both and in my case the answer was actually surprisingly simple once I stopped drowning my sorrows in Reisling. I realized that with or without a paying gig or a fake book project, I was still, am still, a writer. It took a while but I know now that my desire to create didn't completely die with my magazine job -- in fact my journey to get here has only strengthened my resolve, work ethic, and belief in myself and my voice. Maybe your answer will lead you somewhere completely different, new, or exciting but the way that you have approached this bump in the road, makes me sure that it will be right.